Awards roll in for Chieftain soccer team

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2020

DOWAGIAC — It was a record-setting season for the Dowagiac soccer team, and the Chieftains are reaping the benefits from it.

The Chieftains won their school record fourth straight district championship before falling to eventual state runner-up Grand Rapids South Christian in the Division 3 Regional championship game.

It was the second straight year that the Sailors knocked Dowagiac out of the state tournament. In 2019, South Christian eliminated the Chieftains in the regional semifinals on their way to a state runner-up finish.

Dowagiac finished its season with a 13-3-1 overall record. The Chieftains were 5-2-1 in the Wolverine Conference, good for third place.

Due to their success on the field, the Chieftains have reaped the awards off the field.

Isaac Saavedra, Henry Weller and Nate Judd were first-team All-Wolverine Conference selections, while Gustavo Cruz and Noah Green were second-team selections. Ethan Hannapel and Alejandro Martinez earned honorable mention status in the league.

Dowagiac dominated the Division 3 All-District picks with eight players earning first-team and three being named honorable mention.

First team All-District picks were Saavedra, Weller, Judd, Cruz, Alex Hernandez, Green, Hannapel and Martinez. Cole Weller, Chris Mosier and Jordan Simpson were named honorable mention.

All-District is the first step in being named All-State by the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association. The second step is being named All-Region, which six Dowagiac players earned. They were Saavedra, Henry Weller, Judd, Cruz, Hernandez and Martinez.

The Chieftains would wind up with all six players being named to the Division 3 All-State team, a record for veteran Dowagiac coach Mike Williams.

“This year, we had the most All-State players in school history,” he said. “It is great to see these boys develop into top quality soccer players throughout the years. Isaac really stepped up this year as a leader on the field and directed the center mids very well. Henry and Nate did a great job throughout the year holding down the defense and making it difficult for quality teams to score and making it hard to beat us. Alejandro did a great job throughout the year in goal.

“Gus was great as usual. He is a consistent outside mid that scored in key situations, such as the game-winner against South Haven. Alex really came on strong at the end of the year both offensively and defensively.  I moved him back to center defense for regionals, and he did amazing. I expect him to be a key player next year with the returning large group of returning Juniors.  We have a strong returning lineup at this point. We need the underclassman to really work hard to fill the holes left by our seniors.”

Saavedra was Dowagiac’s lone first-team selection, while Henry Weller and Nate Judd earned third-team honors. Hernandez, Cruz and Martinez were honorable mention selections.

Edwardsburg, which finished seventh in the Wolverine Conference standings, had three players earn honorable mention — Bryce Backhus, Tye Vargo and Keaton Brandt.

Plainwell’s Garry Snyder was named Coach of the Year. The Trojans won the conference title with a 7-0-1 record.